- On June 17, 2017
A friend wrote that her somewhat crotchety mother can’t stand people starting emails with I hope you’re well.
“They don’t care how I am,” she says, “so they should just get straight to the point.”
I don’t consider myself crotchety, but I agree. In everyday business writing, there’s generally no reason to open with a reference to your reader’s well-being.
While there’s no one right way to start an email, the following pointers apply, regardless of the objective of your message or how well you know—if at all—the person to whom you’re writing.
• Strike the right tone. Don’t feign familiarity if you don’t know the person. The publisher of a major media brand received an email that started with, Hope you are doing well. I understand your company uses Microsoft Technologies to support your business operations. That sounds ridiculous; the recipient thought so too.
• Avoid general statements. If you begin by saying something everyone knows, you will surely lose your reader, so avoid openers like this one: The PR industry is evolving, and companies need to jump on the mobile train to achieve better results.
• Know your audience, even if you don’t know them. Think about what will register with the person you’re addressing, and put his or her interests first. The other day I received an email asking me whether I would do some volunteer work. The writer—she subscribes to my bulletin, but I don’t know her—started with, ‘Save Our Suffering Towns and Have Sex’—this was the headline that first drew your name to my attention. Flattered that she was complimenting me on something that appeared in one of my bulletins, I read on. (You can’t go wrong by appealing to your reader’s ego.)
Allison Cheston, a career advisor who regularly counsels people on their cover letters to prospective employers, says the most effective opening lines start with an observation about the company the applicant can then relate to his or her own experience.
“If you’re unable to do that, aim to be conversationally polite and show some personality,” Cheston adds.
Yes, you can be professional and still show personality—without leading with I hope you’re well.